What Bonhoeffer really taught - adapted from a paper by Don Jasmin

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by SovereignMercy, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. SovereignMercy

    SovereignMercy
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    Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    General Teachings/Activities *
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a neo-orthodox German theologian, pastor, preacher, radio broadcaster, and prolific writer in the 1930s and early-1940s, during the rise, rule, and downfall of Adolph Hitler. He was greatly fascinated with neo-orthodox thought, theology, and terminology, and was greatly influenced by the major theologian of neo-orthodoxy, Karl Barth (1886-1968). Bonhoeffer's writings are credited with helping to father the "Death of God" theology which was popularized by the Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson in the decade of the1960s. Bonhoeffer was in reality a practical atheist and a religious humanist who denied virtually every cardinal doctrine of the historic Christian faith (Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge, New York: Macmillan Co., 1972, pp. 9-12).

    Bonhoeffer readily acknowledged "the debt he owes to liberal theology." Declaring that it was impossible to know the objective truth about Christ's real nature and essence, Bonhoeffer proclaimed that God was dead. Moreover, Bonhoeffer believed that the true Christian was the confessing believer who totally immersed his life in the secular world, becoming a secular Christian. Rejecting the objective unalterable moral standards of the Bible, Bonhoeffer proclaimed a situational ethics -- that right and wrong are determined solely by the "loving obligations of the moment" (Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge, New York: Macmillan Co., 1972, pp. 9-12, 378; Ethics, pp. 38, 186; No Rusty Swords, pp. 44-45).

    The son of a Berlin professor of psychiatry, Bonhoeffer studied theology at Tubingen, Berlin and at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer, student chaplain and lecturer at the University of Berlin, joined the anti-Nazi pastors in the German "church struggle." In 1935, he was appointed head of the Finkenwalde Confessing Church Seminary, which was closed by the government in 1937. In 1939, Bonhoeffer rejected the possibility of a job in America, safe from the impending European war. He was convinced that he had to face the difficulties ahead with the Christians in Germany.

    Back in Germany during World War II, Bonhoeffer was forbidden to preach or to publish. Though claiming to be a disciple of Gandhi and his credo of non-violence, Bonhoeffer worked as a double agent in the anti-Nazi resistance movement and in the German military office, and eventually joined the wartime conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. His arrest in 1943, however, arose from his direct involvement in smuggling fourteen Jews to Switzerland. He was hanged by the Nazis at Flossenburg on April 9, 1945.

    Although only 39 when executed, Bonhoeffer left a rich legacy of books, some of his best known being Sanctorum Communio, Act and Being, The Cost of Discipleship, and Life Together, as well as letters, papers, and notes published by his close friend and biographer, Eberhard Bethge. These include Letters and Papers from Prison, Ethics, and six volumes of collected writings (Dr. Ruth Zerner, City University of New York, "Dietrich Bonhoeffer," Eerdmans' Handbook To The History of Christianity, 1977, p. 603).

    Although Bonhoeffer presented his own strain of neo-orthodox existentialism, many evangelicals have been taken in by his warm-hearted piety and by his high sounding devotion to Christ and call to suffer for His sake. His religious terminology may appear to be evangelical, but its substance was existential. Yet, there are those today who continue to present Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a genuine Christian hero (e.g., Don Matzat, Chuck Colson, and the editorial board of Christianity Today). Grand Rapids Baptist College (GARBC -- now Cornerstone College) scheduled a play in the fall of 1991 which extolled Bonhoeffer's memory. And Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr., has used quotes from Bonhoeffer to expound on the nature of true Christian fellowship ("The Riches and Responsibilities of Fellowship," The Master's Current, Winter 1994, p. 2). All such accolades to Bonhoeffer are clearly unwarranted.

    The following is a summary of beliefs and influence of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as taken from some of the over 14 books and documents attributed to him:
    1. He believed that "God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without Him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us." Bonhoeffer also believed that the concept of God as a "supreme Being, absolute in power and goodness," was a "spurious conception of transcendence," and that "God as a working hypothesis in morals, politics, and science ... should be dropped, or as far as possible eliminated" (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, pp. 122, 164, 360).

    2. He believed that mankind had become of age and no longer needed religion, which was only a deceptive garment of true faith; he suggested the need for a "religionless Christianity." To Bonhoeffer, "the Christian is identified not by his beliefs, but by actions, by his participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world" (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, p. 163). Thus, Bonhoeffer's final writings have given impulse to Marxist theologians sponsoring "liberation theology" and to others wishing to promote a worldly social gospel.

    3. He refused to discuss the origin of Christ, His relationship to the Father, His two natures, or even the relationship of the two natures. Bonhoeffer was adamant in his belief that it was impossible to know the objective truth about the real essence of Christ's being-nature (Christ the Center, pp. 30, 88, 100-101).

    4. He questioned the Virgin Birth, and in reality denied it (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 215).

    5. He denied the deity of Christ; he advocated that "Jesus Christ Today" is not a real person and being, but a "corporate presence" (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 75-76; Christ the Center, p. 58).

    6. He denied the sinlessness of Christ's human nature and further questioned the sinlessness of His earthly behavior (Christ the Center, pp. 108-109).

    7. He believed that Christ exists in three "revelatory forms" -- as Word, as sacrament, and as church. From asserting that Christ is the church, he followed that all persons in the church are identical with Christ (Christ the Center, p. 58; The Cost of Discipleship, p. 217). This amounts to pantheism!

    8. He believed that Christianity is not exclusive, i.e., that Christ is not the only way to God (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 55-56).

    9. He was a prominent figure in the early ecumenical movement, as evidenced through his associations with the "World Alliance for International Friendship" (a forerunner of the apostate World Council of Churches [WCC]), Union Theological Seminary, and Visser 't Hooft (who later became the first General Secretary of the WCC) (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 22, 212, 568). Bonhoeffer also reached out to Roman Catholics, prefiguring the broader ecumenism that blossomed after Vatican II in the mid-1960s.

    10. He was a practical evolutionist (No Rusty Swords, p. 143), and believed that the book of Genesis was scientifically naive and full of myths (Creation and Fall: A Theological Interpretation of Genesis 1-3).

    11. He adhered to neo-orthodox theology and terminology concerning salvation (Testimony to Freedom, p. 130), was a sacramentalist (Life Together, p. 122; The Way to Freedom, pp. 115, 153), believed in regenerational infant baptism (Letters and Papers from Prison, Macmillan, pp. 142-143) as well as adult baptismal regeneration (The Way to Freedom, p. 151), equated church membership with salvation (The Way to Freedom, p. 93), and denied a personal/individualistic salvation (Letters and Papers from Prison, Macmillan, p. 156).

    12. He placed little or no value on the Old Testament --"... the faith of the Old Testament is not a religion of salvation" (Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, p. 112).

    13. He denied the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture, believing that the Bible was only a "witness" to the Word of God and becomes the Word of God only when it "speaks" to an individual; otherwise, it was simply the word of man/men (Testimony to Freedom, pp. 9, 104; Sanctorum Communio, p. 161). To Bonhoeffer, the Bible was meant "to be expounded as a witness, not as a book of wisdom, a teaching book, a book of eternal truth" (No Rusty Swords, p. 118). He also believed in the value of higher criticism/historical criticism, which is a denial of the inerrancy and authenticity of the Bible (Christ the Center, pp. 73-74).

    14. He had no faith in the physical resurrection of Christ. Bonhoeffer believed the "historicity" of the Resurrection was in "the realm of ambiguity," and that i________________________________________t was one of the "mythological" elements of Christianity that "must be interpreted in such a way as not to make religion a pre-condition of faith." He also believed that "Belief in the Resurrection is not the solution of the problem of death," and that such things as miracles and the ascension of Christ were "mythological conceptions" as well (Christ the Center, p. 112; Letters and Papers from Prison, S.C.M. Press edition, Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1953, pp. 93-94, 110).
    Dr. G. Archer Weniger declared, "If there is wholesome food in a garbage can, then one can find some good things in Bonhoeffer, but if it be dangerous to expect to find nourishment in a garbage can, then Bonhoeffer must be totally rejected and repudiated as blasphemy. It is worse than garbage" (FBF Information Bulletin, May 1977, p. 12).
    ________________________________________
     
  2. SovereignMercy

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    Bibliography

    * The material in this report was adapted in part from a paper by Don Jasmin (Fundamentalist Digest, P.O. Box 2322, Elkton, MD 21922-2322). See also the 9/13/93 and 9/18/95 issues of Christian News (p. 21 and pp. 11-13, respectively), and the Oct-Dec 1991 Bibliotheca Sacra, pp. 399-408.]
     
  3. humblethinker

    humblethinker
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    Ahhh, yes... fundamentalists...

    If you give any weight to the claims above about Bonhoeffer then you should look into those issues. However, it should be helpful to know who the author quoted in the OP is and what his views are. (I don't mean SM but Don Jasmin)

    This essay in support of KJV Onlyism is attributed to Don Jasmin. In it it says this about him:

    That Dr. Jasmin’s position on the King James Bible is longstanding is evident from a letter he wrote to D.O. Fuller in March 13, 1973. This letter was printed in the January-February 1995 issue of Dr. Jasmin’s paper. The caps are exactly as in the original letter:

    "Dear Dr. Fuller:

    "I have a copy of your book and have loaned it to friends. It has helped to strengthen their faith in the Inspired Word in the midst of the many ‘perverted’ translations that are floating about these days.

    "Praise God that you are not afraid to speak on this matter; if only we had 1,000 more voices like yours on this issue. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE STOOD UP FOR THE BIBLE AND THE BEST TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE AVAILABLE TODAY—THE KJV.

    "These ‘mod,’ ‘loose’ translations are not only PERVERTING, CHANGING, DELETING AND ADDING TO GOD’S WORD, BUT ARE MAKING LAZY CHRISTIANS! My sympathy lies with youth who are being sold a ‘false bill of goods’ on these paraphrases. Are these the Bibles that our future GARBC youth will use as deacons and pastors? GOD HELP US!"

    It is interesting to see more information about D. O. Fuller, another KJV Onlyist, the person to whom Don Jansin offers much praise.
     
    #3 humblethinker, Dec 9, 2012
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  4. humblethinker

    humblethinker
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    This website has info on Doctor Don Jasmin. Interesting is this:
    "A possessor of the B.A., B.D., D.D, and L.L.D. degrees, Dr. Jasmin is an honoree in the Fundamentalist Hall of Fame and a recipient of the C.H. Spurgeon Award for contributions to evangelism and Fundamentalism. He also received The Sword Of The Lord Foundation’s "Soul-Winner’s Award". A strong defender of the KJV and wholesome Christian music..."

    Hey, nothing wrong with honarary doctorates... so long as they are deserved.

    I couldn't find the "Fundamentalist Hall of Fame", this grand institution to which he is an honoree (hmmm... if google doesn't show much evidence for it shouldn't that tell us something?) but I did find the C.H. Spurgeon Award! (surely this is not the award he is referring to, no?) Or maybe this, looks like you can nominate your own preferred person to be considered for nomination here.
     
  5. Jerome

    Jerome
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    Challies.com Informing the Reforming



     
  6. John of Japan

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    And already on this thread we see "poisoning the well" and "ad hominen." It seems that some people only resort to charging logical fallacies when it is from their opponents, but see no danger in using the same fallacies themselves. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
     
  7. humblethinker

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    Good point. Having read Metaxis biography on Bonhoeffer recently I Initially I took Metaxis' portrayal of Bonhoeffer as more authoritative than Jasmin for apparent reasons. After further study and until even further study I'm suspending my opinion of Bonhoeffer... as well as Metaxis. It may be that I have been misinformed by Metaxis portrayal of Bonhoeffer. Some of the claims in the OP I would disagree with but had I investigated them prior to my reply posts I probably would have posted differently.

    You've made valid points and I will attempt to exercise better judgement given similar future circumstances. Thank you for your comment.
     
  8. John of Japan

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    Good! Glad to read this.

    I don't know Jasmine myself, but he did give direct quotes from Bonhoeffer. Assuming those quotes have the same meaning in context, then they are damaging.
     
  9. Mexdeaf

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  10. 12strings

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    A bit more research, quotes, and a conclusion (from the guy who posted those Bonhoffer quotes last week):

    The arguement can be made, and has been made, that while Bonhoeffer was not an evangelical in they way he read scripture (as neither was C.S. Lewis), that he was not apostate either. In his statement on the Virgin birth, he COULD be questioning its occurence, or he could be questioning the biblical record of it, wondering if it was accurate (which he, as a Higher Criticism guy would do).

    And consider the following, as to whether he believed in the resurrection:

    In a footnote to the above sentence, he wrote:

    I'll admit that I have NO CLUE what Bonhoeffer is saying in the above quote...except to say that diciphering Bonhoeffer when he gets philosophical is above my pay grade.


    A few quotes from "LIFE TOGETHER" that COULD lead someone to believe he might actually be a Christian:

    (I wonder what he meant by that?....probably something different than they way we use the word.)


    CONCLUSION: I am not a Bonhoeffer scholar by any means, and I have not read Mataxes Biography. I have only read one Bonhoeffer book (His own writings, the whole book, not someone else's commentary of them), LIFE TOGETHER. I though it was excellent, and would be a helpful for any Christian's Spiritual life. I do not know how to evaluate the entirety of Bonhoeffer's teachings & beliefs, but plan to approach any further reading the same why I read C.S. Lewis: Take the truth that is there, reject the falsehood, leave the judgement of the man himself to God...

    ...but I stand by my posted quotes on the other threads, and believe them to be helpful life and godliness and consistent with Scripture.
     
  11. Mexdeaf

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    One of modern-day Christianity's foibles is expecting 18th or 19th century Christians (or FIRST century ones, for that matter) to march in lockstep with us on every jot and tittle of current evangelical belief.

    "Eat the meat, spit out the bones, and if you think it's more bones than meat leave it on the plate" has long been my philosophy.
     
  12. Squire Robertsson

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    The problem with your statement in this context is Bonhoeffer was not a 18th or 19th century Christian. He was if anything a contemporary of G. Gresham Machen.
     
  13. Mexdeaf

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    Sorry that my dates were off but I stand by the principle.
     
  14. 12strings

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    G Gresham Machen!!!!! We've all got that beat, we're all contemporaries of Joel Osteen! We must all be heretics!
     
  15. Squire Robertsson

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    I have no problem with your basic principle. I just don't see it as being applicable to this situation. The man lived in the middle of the Great Modernist Controversy. Or as it played out here in the States, the Great Modernist\Fundamentalist Controversy.
     
  16. Squire Robertsson

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    No. My point is Bonhoeffer lived at a time where the issues he faced are well known to many of us.
     
  17. Mexdeaf

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    I understand your reasoning now. Thanks.
     
  18. 12strings

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    I think the principle of "chew the meat, spit out the bones" can apply very well to bonhoeffer, since knowing that he grew up in the midst of Dominant German liberalism in the Lutheran church helps us to appreciate how far he (& Barth) DID come...even though we might still call their positions "moderate" at best. Just as we can appreciate much about luther, even though he was anti-semite, loose-tongued, baptized babies, and was even fuzzy on the salvific qualites of said baptism...we can appreciate how far he came, given that he grew up in the Roman Catholic system.
     
  19. Squire Robertsson

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    My problem with this position is IMO he and Barth are\were still unsaved, unredeemed men. YMMV.
     
  20. 12strings

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    Are you convinced of this in spite of the quotes I offered in post #10? Just wanted to make sure you saw them.

    and even if they were, does that mean we can learn nothing from them, that they couldn't possibly have written any truth?
     
    #20 12strings, Dec 10, 2012
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